New Yankee Stadium still sucks, but fans make their own fun

The New York Yankees represent a great tradition that goes back more than 100 years. They are the pinnacle of baseball and represent a dynasty that is the envy of the professional sports world. The Yankees also perfected another long-standing tradition in professional sports: screwing over their own fans in a grab for cash so shameless it would embarrass Ayn Rand.

The company I work for had a group social outing to see the Yankees play the Boston Red Sox in what happened to be a somewhat historic game. Boston’s David Ortiz, known as “Big Papi” was playing his last game at Yankee Stadium, so there would be a special ceremony there to bid him farewell.

Our small office closed early on the appointed day and we took the subway to Yankee Stadium with many of my coworkers honoring the tradition of sipping beer concealed in coffee cups on the way up. Meeting up with our boss and his son outside the Yankee Tavern, we headed to the Stadium.

The Yankees won’t let you print tickets if you order them online from certain places, so the one coworker who had the tickets had to open them in an email on her phone. The rest of us stood there waiting while she tried to get reception on her smart phone and then we could all enter. Why can’t someone print out one of their own damn tickets like everywhere else in the civilized universe? I don’t know but someone in the Yankee organization figured that they’d make a few more cents per ticket making things miserable for their fans.

The real Yankee Stadium was torn down years ago. It was a historic place, though much of its historic innards were destroyed when the stadium underwent a poorly-done renovation in the 1970s. The new Yankee Stadium fails as a baseball stadium in just about every way possible. The entire field is not clearly visible from every seat.

This stadium was built to sell overpriced merchandise with watching baseball as an afterthought and it shows. This game was no exception. There were long lines for the expensive concessions. The one central concession stand that serves the bleachers was crowded and some fans waited on long lines only to learn that they would have to stand on a different long line at the same counter if they wanted French fries or chicken. A stand-alone hot dog stand had a grill full of foot-long hot dogs, but the woman running it told a long line of people that none of the hot dogs were ready yet.

Our group had left-field bleachers, which are not good seats. The right-field bleachers, in the old Yankee Stadium was a notoriously rough place with merciless fans. Life in the bleacher seats of Yankee Stadium, like life elsewhere in New York City today, is a soft-pedalled and safer version of what it was. It plays at being the old days but doesn’t pull it off.

However, the fans in the bleachers still insist on having their own fun and being the voice of irreverence that the game desperately needs. It brought enjoyment to the game that is dulled by the frustrating shit-show that is Yankee Stadium.

We got there early enough to see David Ortiz get some gifts. It was great to see Yankee great David Cone come out onto the field to congratulate Big Papi. Like many other Red Sox, Ortiz was fun to hate. He was a tremendous hitter though and was a nightmare for any opposing team. Like many other star players of this era, his abilities were supplemented by performance-enhancing drugs. Fans broke into chants of “Let’s go steroids!” and plenty of Boston fans were there to repeatedly chant “Let’s go playoffs!” referring to the Red Sox superior position in the divisional rankings that guaranteed them a playoff berth.

As the innings wore on and the beer continued to flow, the chants and backtalk between the Boston and New York fans got more colorful. One of the most popular concessions at Yankee Stadium today is the chicken bucket, a serving of eight chicken tenders with a large helping of French fries served in a plastic bucket. Into the fifth inning fans began chanting “Chicken Bucket!!” in the cadence of the traditional “Let’s go Yankees!” chant.

“CHICK-en BUCK-et!” —clap, clap, clapclapclap—

“CHICK-en BUCK-et!” —clap, clap, clapclapclap—

As the chant wore on, Red Sox and Yankee fans would take turns hoisting these buckets into the air for all to see and appealing to the crowd for applause. Though Boston fans were numerous, Yankee fans still had the upper hand and would win more applause with the proud display of this snack souvenir.

Some of the insane banter and shouting from the fans made it more entertaining than the game, and Yankee fans got bolder as the Bronx Bombers got the upper hand and took control of the game. What helped was that the star of the show that brought out so many Boston fans, David Ortiz, was taken out of the game after only a few at-bats with a poor showing. It was great to feel the energy when he walked off the field, as Boston fans surely must have felt cheated to see their hero play so little. These tickets weren’t cheap for them either.

I was also heartened that another time-honored tradition of baseball, sneaking into more expensive seats later in the game, lives on. This new Yankee Stadium was built to prevent that and has a much-talked about “moat” to separate the rich bandwagon fans from the rest of us hoi-polloi, but my boss is a baseball fanatic and knows how to beat the system. He managed to get along the first base line as the innings wore on, watching the action up close from a seat that would have cost him more than all of our bleacher seats combined.

Listening to the people around us restored my faith in Yankee fans and the game itself. No matter how badly the Yankee organization craps on its own supporters, they can’t kill the spirit that brings so many to the bleachers of their shitty stadium. Yankees Inc. may insist on being every bit the evil empire, but Yankee fans won’t let those bastards destroy the game entirely.

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